Micro-Projects: "Conrailized"
©1999 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Legal Stuff

When the 104020 Penn Central 60 foot excess height box car was released by Micro-Trains back in March 1999, I knew that it would be a prime candidate for "Conrailizing". The original way, that is, not the professional manner in which repaints were done later on in Big Blue's history. While I didn't look for a particular prototype for this car, and the "paint scheme" (such as it is) isn't necessarily true to life, I wanted to model something that suggested the early days of Conrail, when they had no money and no resources, except maybe some old jade green paint and some "Penn Central" stencils-- which, fortunately, include the letters "CR"! And I also wanted to show a bit of what I do in model railroading besides write the UMTRR...
(Left) The 104020 Penn Central box car, as originally released by Micro-Trains.

The first step was some heavy duty weathering, using a variety of Pollyscale and some older Accuflex colors. You'll find some "Mud", "Grimy Black," "Dust", and "Tuscan Red Oxide" in the mix. I use a lot of water, which I keep in a very shallow dish once used by airlines to serve hot meals. (I didn't "obtain" this from a plane; I bought it as a factory second from a cookware outlet.) My technique is probably similar to others; I just dip a medium sized camel hair brush in water, lightly touch it into the paint and have at it.

Money was so tight during the Penn Central era-- especially the end of it-- that when doors needed to be replaced, "new" ones were installed regardless of how well they matched. To simulate this, I painted one-- just one-- with Accuflex "Pennsy Maroon".

Next, I masked the car body and went to the "overpaint". As you can see, I painted out only the roadname, the large herald and the "PC" reporting mark, but not the number. I "cheated" a little here and used Polly Scale "NYC Jade Green," which isn't quite the same shade as PC Jade Green. But then, that's the point, isn't it?

Note that I had made a wrong choice on the amount of adhesive to use on the masking tape. When I pulled the tape off, a bunch of the original weathering also came off! Rats! However, after further review, I decided I liked the weathering pattern that was left behind. It was almost as if someone had at least attempted to clean up the car prior to its quick repaint.

Here are both sides of the finished product. I used the Penn Central "C" and "R" from Microscale's 60-84 "Penn Central Diesels-Hoods and Cabs" set, and the "Conrail" name from Microscale's 60-740 "Conrail Quality Locomotives" set (the smallest version in the set). It's not really apparent in the scans, but I also weathered the trucks with a series of browns and a little bit of Polly-S "Dust", and painted the couplers with Accu-Flex "Maroon Tuscan Oxide Red". I also went back and "cleaned off" the worst of the weathering from the road number and the dimensional data. While I did weather the ends, I didn't bother to try changing the end reporting marks. Shhh, don't tell anyone!

And, oh, by the way, here's Micro-Trains' model of what the real Conrail did with ten of the prototype series of cars, but not until the mid 1980's. (Photo © by and courtesy of Micro-Trains Line, Inc.) Given that Conrail started in 1976, and this paint scheme didn't appear on these cars until about ten years later, it wouldn't surprise me if some of the original Penn Central series looked like my representation for at least some of that time period!